Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Saturday, 24 March 2007
Saturday, 24 March 2007 18:29

EU wants to tackle global warming

The European Commission has proposed a plan for tackling global warming. European leaders will debate and adopt it in March 2007. The plan, though bold, is much less ambitious than previously foreseen. Dubbed an Energy Policy for Europe, it does not propose to create a unified power market, one that could be overseen by a single regulator and benefit from a common front in dealing with energy suppliers. Experts say that it would be unrealistic to seek to unify energy policy in a trade bloc of 27 disparate countries, some rich, some much poorer. France, for instance, relies on nuclear power for 80 percent of its electricity, while others, like Poland, depend almost entirely on coal to generate electricity.
Under pressure from industries like steel, where executives fear losing business if Europe adopts stricter regulations than the rest of the world, the EU has finally recommended cutting emissions level by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. The plan also includes proposals to encourage the "capture," or trapping, and storage of carbon dioxide emissions, including making it mandatory for all new coal-fired power stations after 2020 to incorporate the new, cleaner technologies. EU officials also highlighted the benefits of nuclear energy in efforts to curb carbon emissions. But widespread public skepticism about the safety and price of nuclear technology led EU officials to back away from pushing EU states to use nuclear power as a primary weapon against climate change. The commission also proposed measures that aim to reduce power consumption by about 20 percent by 2020 as another means of reducing emissions. Those measures, including better constructed homes and offices, could save consumers USD 130 billion, each year in fuel bills.

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Saturday, 24 March 2007 18:26

Armed conflicts are diminishing

We might not have noticed yet, but since the end of the Cold War, armed conflict and nearly all other forms of political violence have decreased. The world is far more peaceful than it was. Published in 2005 and 2006, the Human Security Report, an independent study funded by five countries and directed by Andrew Mack (University of British Columbia in Vancouver), has revealed that after five decades of increase, the number of armed conflicts started to fall worldwide in the early 1990s. The decline has continued. By 2003, there were 40 percent fewer conflicts than in 1992. The deadliest conflicts -- those with 1,000 or more battle-deaths -- fell by some 80 percent. The number of genocides and other mass slaughters of civilians also dropped by 80 percent, while core human rights abuses have declined in five out of six regions of the developing world since the mid-1990s. International terrorism is the only type of political violence that has increased.
The end of the Cold War, which had driven at least a third of all conflicts since World War II, appears to have been the single most critical factor for this phenomenon. Also, the role of international organizations has been increasing, with very positive results: the number of U.N. peacekeeping operations and missions to prevent and stop wars has increased by more than 400 percent since the end of the Cold War. As this upsurge of international activism grew in scope and intensity through the 1990s, the number of crises, wars and genocides declined. U.N. peace-building operations have a two-thirds success rate, and are cost-effective. In fact, the United Nations spends less running 17 peace operations around the world for an entire year than the United States spends in Iraq in a single month.
There have been some horrific failures, of course -- the failures to stop genocide in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Darfur notably. And Iraq and the Middle East are a source of major international oncern. But the quiet successes -- in Namibia, El Salvador, Mozambique, Eastern Slovenia, East Timor and elsewhere went largely unheralded.

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Saturday, 24 March 2007 18:22

Looking for a model...

Once, in a Chinese class, our teacher asked us who were our female models. Among the answers, there were for example Lady Di or Yin Qi (a Taiwanese successful business woman; she’s the one in charge of the new High Speed Train in Taiwan). As for myself, I don’t know why, but the first name that came to my mind was Blanche of Castille (the mother of Louis IX, king of France during the 13th century)!

Don’t worry, it also sounded strange to everyone in the classroom, even to me. Besides the fact that I do not really identify myself with a French queen from the Middle Ages, nor do probably the others with their models, our answers can be taken as indications of the way we think. It’s not a coincidence that we mentioned figures of strong and powerful women, including those in political roles.

My teacher’s question took me by surprise, because, I have to confess, I never asked myself this question before. In Europe, in France, the feminist mentality is already so developed that it doesn’t have to be mentioned to be part of society. When I arrived in Taiwan, I was a bit shocked by the differences in attitudes towards men and women: from smoking to more complex subjects as marriage or having children. In my own Taiwanese family, I can play the game of the seven differences between my aunt and my cousin. My first aunt is an ex-singer, an independent woman without children, now living with my uncle (who is divorced from my cousin’s mother), and a smoker! My cousin represents for me the typical traditional Asian girl: with long dark hair and very white skin, she is very beautiful, very slim and very shy. And there was me in the middle, appearing to them like a strange Asian-looking girl thinking like a French woman…

With some 1.1 billion members, the Catholic Church is the world’s largest single religious body. It is also becoming more and more universal. While, in the past, the majority or the clergy and the faithful, were of Western, especially European origin, the transformation occurred during the last fifty years have been astounding. Africa has seen the number of Catholics growing exponentially, and, because of demographic shifts, Latin America and, to a lesser degree, Asia have also increased their share within the Church. It can be safely predicted that the Catholic Church will be less and less a European one. These changes had been well prepared by the second Vatican Council, held at the beginning of the sixties, which opened the Church to the modern world and to the diversity of cultures.
At the sane time, the Church is undergoing a number of crises: in its former strongholds, such as Western Europe, its influence is faltering; in Latin America, the appeal of Protestant fundamentalist cults is growing; in the US and elsewhere the sex abuse scandal has weakened the clergy; new scientific challenges, especially in the bioethics field, oblige the Church to reexamine part of its teachings; women are looking for a more recognized role within the hierarchical structure of the Church; and the dialogue with other religions, especially with Islam, is not only as smooth as could be desired….

The future of the Catholic Church is not of interest for Catholics alone. As one of the biggest and most influential organizations in the world, Catholicism exercises an influence that goes far beyond the number of the faithful. This is very clear in Taiwan. Though the number of Catholics is very modest (a little over 300,000, as far as this can be asserted), the church has been extremely influential and effective in operating institutional and medical facilities, and its cultural reach is not limited to parishes. Its role in organizing and energizing aboriginal communities has been and continue to be important. At the same time, its has not fulfilled the hopes that it cold have in the xsixties when it started to spread around the island. The Church is older and less creative than it was three decades ago. In Taiwan as elsewhere the Catholic church is indeed at the crossroads.

Will we move towards a Web 2.0 model for the Church? However important the clergy might be, the Church is built around the “people of God’ – the faithful. Throughout the voice of ordinary Catholics we can also discern which road the Church has to take. Each day we have to decide anew tot ake on the road rather than standing at the crossroads…

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